New polling data this week:

  • Quinnipiac (Iowa): Walker 25, Paul 13, Huckabee 11, Carson 11, Bush 10, Cruz 5, Rubio 4, Christie 4, Santorum 4, Perry 3, Jindal 2
  • Gravis (Nevada): Walker 27, Bush 19, Christie 8, Huckabee 6, Cruz 6, Perry 6, Rubio 4, Santorum 4, Paul 3, Jindal 1

The First Tier
1. Scott Walker (Governor – Wisconsin) (Last week: 1) (Points: 116)

 

Rationale: It was a light polling week, but such meager polling data as there was favored Walker heavily as he demonstrated strong leads in Iowa and Nevada, cementing his position as the true national frontrunner. Walker’s performance at CPAC was mostly well received in spite of some nontroversy over his ISIS remarks and he finished second in the CPAC straw poll (although for all intents and purposes, the well known Paultard ability to spam self selecting polls means Walker finished first). Walker continues to man the catbird’s seat and the media has thus far been unable to dislodge him in spite of their best efforts. What remains to be seen is how Walker’s admitted mea culpa on his immigration position will play.

This week in the news:

2. Jeb Bush (Fmr Governor – Florida) (Last week: 2) (Points: 109)

 

Rationale: Jeb had a relatively poor week in terms of publicity (his CPAC appearance with Hannity was widely panned and received poorly by the attendees). Likewise, the Q-poll showing him fading in Iowa did nothing to help the picture of inevitability Bush has been trying to paint. But credit has to go to Bush for going to CPAC, facing the music, and standing by his positions. He remains the establishment and money favorite however and probably won’t fall farther than this in the absence of a major campaign implosion.

This week in the news:

The Second Tier
3. [mc_name name=’Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000595′ ] (Senator – Florida) (Last week: 4) (Points: 82)

 

Rationale: In the minds of the panel, Rubio pulled away from the rest of the pack to establish himself as the most likely candidate to break into the top tier if either Walker or Jeb falters. Rubio continues to have Jeb Bush blocking his path to the nomination in Florida but he remains the candidate who stands the most to gain from the actual start of coverage in earnest and the stump speech season. Rubio also joined Walker in kowtowing to immigration hardliners at CPAC. It remains to be seen how, if at all, this will play with those voters.

This week in the news: 

4. Chris Christie (Governor – NJ) (Last week: 3) (Points: 75)

 

Rationale: Christie also went to CPAC and faced some tough questions and skeptical conservatives. If anything, he came off worse than Jeb, as by all reviews he appeared off balance and defensive. The Iowa Q-Poll also put a little bit of a damper on Christie’s star, as he clearly has been making a push in Iowa with several personal appearances. Christie’s in-state approval ratings are also dropping to all-time lows which could equal some legislative setbacks during a very inopportune time.

This week in the news:

 

The Third Tier
5. Bobby Jindal (Governor – Louisiana) (Last Week: 5) (Points: 62)

 

Rationale: The Panel still likes Jindal more than either I or poll respondents do. Wait, that’s not accurate: I like Jindal better than any candidate in the field, I just don’t see a reasonable path to Jindal winning the nomination. However, he shares that in common with the other candidates in this tier, and at least he is registering in the newest polls (albeit still in more or less last place. Jindal remains the only candidate in the field who can appear at CPAC and not get heckled by somebody.

This week in the news:

6. [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] (Senator – Texas) (Last week: 7) (Points: 60)

 

Rationale: Frustration with a feckless GOP Congress over DHS funding and immigration may reach a boiling point this week, which can only help generate a contrast with Cruz, who is nothing if not the opposite of feckless, particularly with respect to his willingness to shut down the government. As the anger over the last shutdown fades people may yet turn an eye to Cruz as what’s most needed right now among the GOP contenders is a candidate with a spine: tactics may get to take second place.

This week in the news: 

7. [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] (Senator – Kentucky) (Last week: 9) (Points: 52)

 

Rationale: [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] is the biggest riser in this week’s poll; however, he was probably undervalued in the first poll. After all, the polling news for Rand was disastrously bad this week. Nevada and Iowa are two states he absolutely needs to win, as they are two of his father’s biggest bastions, and are also caucus states. The fact that Rand has cratered into the low single digits in both these states indicates that Rand may have been fatally exposed as a pretender rather than contender. Don’t completely count out a guy with a dedicated base who has for this long convinced people he’s not crazy though.

This week in the news:

The Fourth Tier
8. Rick Perry (Fmr Governor – Texas) (Last week: 6) (Points: 45)

 

Rationale: Perry was drastically overrated in last week’s panel vote and probably still might be. However, he did poll well in Nevada and is at least registering in Iowa again, so things are moving in the right direction. Conventional wisdom is that [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] came out the winner at CPAC, but it would have been news if [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] had NOT won the straw poll. The real candidate who may have helped himself the most was Rick Perry, who pleasantly surprised most conference attendees with his fire and energy.

This week in the news:

9. Mike Huckabee (F Governor – Arkansas) (Last week: 8) (Points: 35)

 

Rationale: Huckabee was damaged more than any candidate by the Q-poll showing him running a distant third in Iowa.  Nonetheless, he continues to punch below his polling weight due to the “low ceiling” factor and the belief among some panelists that he does not actually intend to run. Whether he runs or not, it is difficult to imagine a guy like Huckabee assembling a coalition that could take the nomination.

This week in the news:

10. Ben Carson (Physician) (Last week: 10) (Points: 17)

 

Rationale: Carson will likely remain in this spot or lower despite his standing in the polls until he can demonstrate that he can withstand the glare of the campaign and actually win a state. Carson likewise wowed the crowd at CPAC with a great speech that demonstrated a visible emotional pull on the audience but the hope here is that he uses the campaign as a springboard into a race for something statewide.